Thursday, 13 October 2011

ABC Wednesday M is for More Ms in My Garden

Magpie (Pica pica) This striking, handsome, noisy crow is believed to be among the most intelligent of all animals. It is omnivorous, a scavenger, a thief stealing eggs and young nestlings and bright, shiny objects. Though it is often described as a black and white bird, closer observation reveals iridescent blue, green and purple in its wing and tail feathers.  An adult magpie’s tail is more than half the bird’s total length and indicates its social standing. Juveniles have much shorter tails. Magpies mate for life.
Known simply as a pie until the late 16th century, the prefix ‘mag’ was added – mag meaning female or chatterer. Magpies are renowned mimics and will learn other birds’ songs, telephone ring calls, door-bells.

One for sorrow, two for joy,
Three for a girl, four for a boy,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.

Superstitious folk believe that a single magpie signals bad luck. To allay misfortune one should salute the bird or say, ‘Good morning, Mr Magpie, I hope your family is well.’ If the magpie looks directly into your eyes it is showing respect for you and thus the formalities need not be observed.  
Malus (Crab-apple)
We have two Malus trees. The weeping crab-apple, Malus x scheideckeri ‘Red Jade’ bears red fruits.
Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ flowers slightly later and has yellow apples. Red Jade has no fruits this year but Golden Hornet has produced a number of crab-apples . . .
. . . enough to make a small jar or two of crab-apple jelly?
The cheerful orange or yellow faces of Marigold (Calendula officinalis) brighten the sometimes dismal days of summer. In temperate climates it is an annual plant but self-seeds successfully. The petals can be used fresh in salads. When dried they are a substitute for the more expensive saffron and have been used to colour cheese.
As a herbal remedy Calendula can be applied externally as a salve or taken internally as an infusion. In its varying guises it is claimed to treat many ills from acne to conjunctivitis to warts.
Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata)
This evergreen aromatic shrub belongs to the rue family (Rutaceae) and will tolerate full sun, partial shade or shade in alkaline or lightly acidic soil but needs to be sheltered from cold winds. In spring it produces a profusion of sweetly perfumed flowers which attract bees and other pollinating insects. After flowering the stems should be cut back by 10-12” (25-30 cms) which encourages a second flush in August/September. Propagation is by cuttings taken between April and July. The leaves also release a fragrance when cut. 
Apple mint
Mint grows rampantly if not checked but disappears underground in winter to emerge afresh in spring. We have three varieties – Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) with large soft furry leaves, black peppermint with purple stems and leaves (Mentha x piperita), and spearmint (Mentha spicata) The leaves are excellent in leafy and fruit salads or cooked with new potatoes or stir fry. I have yet to make mint sauce!

Click here to find more Ms.


  1. Beautiful photos again Janice.

    We've been missing your informative and entertaining posts. Hope all the menagerie are well.

    Isabel x

  2. Many M photos today, magnifique!
    I like magpies, and have often thought it would be interesting to raise a foundling, but I haven't found one.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  3. Oh that magpie is beautiful. Every time I see your pictures I wish my kids were a bit older so we could be outside and less (sort of) attentive to their needs and I could see stuff like this.

  4. Fantastic bird this crow. In Belgium, a crow is called a Kraai and is completely black. Such a bird we call here a Ekster. It is a family of our crow.


  5. lots of natural Ms, a very generous assortment.
    I don't welcome magpies into the garden. As we are surrounded by open country they don't come very often.

    My malus is a red sentinel, which is an absolute spectacle twice a year.

    As for the summer flowers, it'll be a long time before they're back.

  6. Hi Janice .. love your ABC Wednesday .. and your selection of Ms is great .. Magpies .. I never see them singly now .. always loads around .. and they are very pretty underneath!

    Cheers Hilary

  7. Magpies are nasty birds though.

    I am growing fonder of marigolds.

  8. I like all of the "M's" you came up with. The magpie IS quite an attractive bird..too bad so noisy though, as you say.

  9. They sound so intelligent it makes me wonder if anyone has tried keeping a pair for pets? One day this summer I saw a group of magpies harrassing a small cat. They wound not let up, even when the cat went under a truck to get away from them. The racket was ferocious and went on for longer than I had to watch so I never did find out how it all ended. Hope the cat got away!

  10. Ooh, such a colourful post I don't know where to begin. Think I'll just say thanks for brightening up my Thursday!

  11. A whole bunch of beautiful Ms. I've always admired the magpie. I didn't know they mated for life or were so intelligent. Very interesting!

  12. @Isabel - thank you!I've been busy this week . . .
    @Kay - I love magpies. People do hand-rear corvids but it's not easy.
    @Joshua - your time will come! Enjoy your children while you may - actually, it's not easy to be rosy-hued about the whole process when you're in the midst of it!
    @Filip - I think all the corvids are most interesting and intelligent.
    @Friko - I looked up your malus - it's beautiful but rather too large for our small garden. Yes, the summer flowers are largely gone but each season brings its own beauty. (I have to look hard for it sometimes in our plot.)
    @Hilary - the oak trees around us are alive with magpies and crows. Love them!
    @Liz - nature red in tooth and claw! Magpies are no worse than sparrowhawks, woodpeckers, jays - though it's never nice to see birds being torn apart:-/
    @Mary - they are noisy but it's all part of the local soundscape and much to be preferred to lawnmowers or electric drills!
    @Karen - I suspect the magpies were mobbing the cat to frighten it away from their nest site. I'm sure the cat survived!
    @Frostbite and Sunburn - thank you!
    @Belle - thank you, too:-)

  13. mag- means female or chattering. interesting, if sexist, linguistic history, don't you think?

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  14. I really don't like magpies
    and yet them seem to like my garden!

    Love, love love your yellows!

    Happy weekend.


  15. Thank you, Fiona - happy weekend to you, too.

  16. The magpie is a very pretty bird and until you pointed out its true colouration I DI think it was a black and white bird.

    You have many lovely flowers in your garden.

  17. The old order changeth not, as Tennyson didn't say.

  18. Magnificent post and Most inforMative too ;-)

  19. there is so much interesting information and so many lovely photos in this post!

  20. Beautiful and informative post. I mightily enjoyed your Ms!

  21. @Carolina, Dianne, Tammy - Many thanks:-)

  22. Hi jabblog,its good to see your post,i wish you will visit my blog again:)

  23. And M for mischievous, though they appeal to me despite their reputation. I didn't know they were called simply pies.

  24. Sometimes I think we only have magpies here around. There are so many and some of them are real agressive, I saw my neighbor's cat hiding under the chimney roof because a magpie tried to attack him !
    Sometimes they also try to become friends with a cat, Arthur had one who followed him on the street by hopping behind him ! What a picture !!

  25. I do enjoy your informative post. We only see a few magpies here now and then but the crows always seem to be somewhere nearby.

    A few months ago when I set some traps for feral cats one night. The next morning when I checked them I had captured a magpie. Perhaps I should have greeted him more formally before I released him but he seemed quite happy to be free.

  26. @sunny - thank you! I will.
    @Dave - I find magpies most entertaining.
    @Gattina - I would love to have seen that!!
    @SquirrelQueen - I'm sure the magpie was most respectful to you so no need for the formalities;-)

  27. @EGWow - sorry - I missed you out, don't know how. Don't be fooled by the flowers - they bloom despite the parlous state of the garden!!

  28. Beautiful! Aren't you lucky to have such wonderful things in your garden.

  29. @Talli - thank you! Beautiful in isolation. Overall, the garden is a mess;-)


I appreciate that some people like to give awards but for me your comments are reward enough.

Thank you for visiting. I love to read your comments and really appreciate you taking the time to respond to posts.

I will always try to repay your visit whenever possible.